Establishing a brand and building its awareness can lead to reduced costs related to improved patient retention and improved patient communication. A well-implemented branding strategy can also result in increased patient satisfaction (Snihurowych et al., 2009). Increased patient satisfaction, in turn, can lead to increased compliance with doctors’ advice, reduced rates of malpractice suits, increased profitability and number of patient referrals (Dawn and Lee, 2004).
Learn why patient satisfaction matters and how to achieve this.
A brand is a “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or services as distinct from those of other sellers.” (AMA, 2017) Put simply, branding is what sets your clinic, your services and even you as a professional, apart from the rest of the eye care industry.
Why is branding so important?
A consistent and convincing brand represents a significant competitive advantage (Rupp, 2012).
In a recent study, Kemp et al. (2014) found that similar results apply to the healthcare sector, i.e. trust is correlated to the positive attitude of the patient towards the healthcare brand. In turn, trust is a key component in establishing commitment or loyalty to a care provider.
When an affective commitment is formed between a patient and a healthcare brand, the patient comes to identify themselves with that brand and to actively promote it (Kemp et al., 2014).
>Branding helps to differentiate between similar services or providers.
How to define the brand of your clinic
Whether you are aware of it or not, your clinic does have a brand. This is how patients perceive your clinic. But this may not necessarily be how you want them to think of your services. Or it may be that even though your clinic has a good reputation, not many are aware of it.
In order for you to cultivate and promote a valuable brand, you first need to craft a successful and authentic brand identity.
Start by asking yourself the following questions:
1. What do you want to promote?
Brands can be looked at from 4 perspectives: brand-as-a-product, brand-as-an-organisation, brand-as-a-person or brand-as-a-personality (Aaker, 1996).
If you want to differentiate your clinic, consider what organisational attributes can be linked to this, e.g. innovation, patient care, patient engagement, trustworthiness, employee well-being, etc.
If you would prefer to differentiate yourself as a professional, consider some of the more personal qualities, e.g. your studies, your professional membership, your achievements, your personality.
2. What are the core qualities you want to project to patients?
Your brand needs to resonate with your patients, whilst maintaining its authenticity (Aaker, 2000). This means that you should not aim to be known for something you are not able to offer.
3. How do you differentiate your clinic?
Start by thinking about those qualities that your patients are seeking that your competition isn’t already offering or is poorly promoting.
When put in a very simple context, many providers offer the exact same product or service. Colgate is a toothpaste. But with the help of their colourful packaging, their powerful messages phrased around motherly care, education and health, and their social campaigning e.g. “Keeping Britain Smiling” which supports Barnardo’s (Colgate, 2017), Colgate is one of the world’s most valuable brands (Forbes, 2016).
When defining your Optometry practice brand, you may find many patients prefer your practice as they appreciate your staff’s sense of fashion.
Another example is when defining an Ophthalmologist’s brand –patients may appreciate you taking the time to explain what each procedure entails.
>Think about those qualities that your patients are seeking that your competition isn’t already offering or is poorly promoting.
If you are having difficulties finding a unique quality that your patients appreciate, consider one that you would like to be known for and that you can improve, e.g. patient education, patient communication, innovation, clinical knowledge, etc.
A well-implemented branding strategy can strengthen patient’s trust in their eye care provider and can result in increased patient satisfaction, loyalty and number of positive referrals.
Improved patient satisfaction can lead to better compliance with doctors’ recommendations, reduced rates of malpractice suits, increased profitability and number of patient referrals.
To define your brand, think about the qualities your patients seek that you can offer in a better way than your competition can.
Seek ways to enhance the patient experience with your brand. Innovate to differentiate your practice.